Thursday, October 16, 2014

50% off Training on Empty

Get 50% off the Training on Empty ebook from now until the end of the month. Coupon code: QX85H 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Little Warning Please

I love this blog, because I can let loose and not worry so much about the small details. A lot of the time it's written with pure emotion as my biggest inspiration, and it's great therapy!

I feel a rant coming on. It started over a week ago. One good week followed by a few more painful ones, my exercise limited to merely jogging, started things. Irritability combined with watching Ben Afflick's outburst added to my growing unease. The final log on the fire was a facebook incident. I know. Facebook rage is as absurd as road rage, only it's usually less deadly.

Since the tragic incident, in which nobody actually died, I've been thinking about why I got so fired up over something I probably could have ignored. Those thoughts seem to have spilled into the following rant:

Let me set the stage. I spend a lot of time in a mentor role, mostly in facebook groups for eating disorder recovery. There's a language we speak in these groups, and there are strict rules including: no talking about numbers, no posting unhealthy images or potentially triggering images, and warnings on posts that might trigger others.

I have gotten used to these rules and usually obey them in all areas of my life, even on my own blog, though I have mentioned numbers on occasion, usually with a warning. All potentially triggering posts with images come with a big warning at the start.

Having said this, I know all about the first amendment and people's right to free speech and their right to express themselves. On the other hand, I also believe in responsible speech. While I would never try to dictate what someone says or posts on facebook since it is a public forum, I will occasionally state my opinion on certain posts, so when a computer generated image of a very anorexic lady on a treadmill popped up in my news feed, I reacted and said something.

I want to make it clear that I'm not triggered by these kinds of images, but I find them upsetting. I have what's almost like some sort of PTSD reaction. I know the hell of living with an eating disorder. I know how boys, girls, women and men suffer with these kinds of illnesses. I know what it is to be torn between wanting to slit your wrists versus struggling through another nightmarish day, so I make every attempt to be there for those still in the throes of it.

In response to this image that was reposted from another profile by an acquaintance, I made a friendly comment about how these kinds of images can be triggering. The poster and several of this person's friends shot back with comments about life being triggering and how triggering is a great way to wake up and get real. I think there was also a comment about not looking if you don't like a post, which is valid, except I didn't go looking for this image; it popped up in my face without warning.

Had this person not been adamant about wanting to help others love their bodies, I probably would have let it drop. Knowing how an image like this can affect the people in the eating disorder forums I'm in, I got ragey. I shot back, but I kept it very civil and on the kind side, as much as possible, all things considered. I held my tongue while still attempting to get my point across.

Apparently, this person wanted to post the image in an effort to promote wellness. It's hard to see how posting an image of what's supposed to represent an extremely ill person would turn a switch in someone's head enough to make them decide not to starve, exercise less and be as empowered as those commenting claim to be. You don't usually see pictures of raging alcoholics in the gutter inspiring active alcoholics to stop drinking, so it's difficult to see how this strategy would work when it comes to eating disorders. Besides, I find it unkind to point fingers at others and announce, "Don't be like this guy!"

What I found most disturbing about the entire transaction was that only two people made any effort at all to understand what I was saying. People seemed to be so dead set on being right that any thoughts contrary to the mainstream were discounted. Instead, there was talk about stroking egos, tough love and calling others out, like anyone struggling isn't already aware, at least on some level, she is struggling. Possible denial aside, I don't think seeing an image of an anorexic person will make anyone think, "Holy crap! I'm too thin too! I must grab an Oreo!"

When one poster suggested that anyone in the throes of an illness who might be triggered shouldn't be on facebook, I about lost it. I really wanted to throw some nasty words onto the computer screen. I mean, just because I'm the other side of the illness, it doesn't mean I don't remember what it was like to be triggered by nearly everything. That doesn't mean I should have stopped participating in the world at that time. Instead of being bitchy, I simply mentioned that many people who are struggling find great support in online communities, especially on facebook. I also reminded anyone who would listen that what you say and do can have an effect on others, either positive or negative, and when it comes to posting images that are highly disturbing, the effect can not only be negative, it can be downright damaging and long lasting.

All I wanted was a little warning, something like the warnings at the start of graphic movies or potentially upsetting news stories. Is that too much to ask? Yeah, yeah, it's this person's wall, but I find it sad when people are unable to step outside themselves and consider how actions might affect others. It definitely wasn't wrong to post that image, but I found the move thoughtless. I say this considering the insistence that this person is out to help people find self love. Had it been Joe Blow, I would have kept my mouth shut after my first comment.

To be fair, I understand the motivation behind the attempt. I do believe this person meant well. Also, there were some very thoughtful comments by several people, discarding the ones that were downright snotty and meant to be mean, and those were not handed out by the original poster. If nothing more, I hope that before the entire thread was deleted (guess who got the last word? hehe), it got some people thinking.

I fully believe that people should speak their truth, but do it in a way that's not hurtful to others. If you insist on calling others out, at least have some fucking compassion when you do. And be sure you're not hiding your own demons in the basement before you go ordering others to take a good look at themselves.

Thursday, October 2, 2014


I've been struggling to come to a better understanding about forgiveness and how it plays a role in recovery. I don't just mean recovery in terms of addiction or eating disorders but recovery or healing in general.

I started thinking about forgiveness this week when I read an article about a lady who was raped and forgave her attacker in the courtroom where he was being sentenced, even though he wrecked her life so badly she was forced to relocate to a different country. In the comment section of the article, people gave their opinions on why this move was more beneficial for her than for her attacker. One can assume that for her, it meant letting go of resentment that was eating at her, and being willing to accept that she could forgive without letting him off the hook. He's still accountable for his actions, but she no longer has to be involved in his life in any way. She doesn't have to waste energy thinking about how his actions hurt her. This is not an easy task.

If one could imagine two people attached together by a large ribbon, the ribbon would represent the ties of anger that hold the two beings together. If one imagines taking a large pair of scissors and cutting through that ribbon with the two pieces drifting away from each other, that represents how forgiveness should free a person. Everyone knows it's not this simple, though. Why is that? Why is it easy for some to "let go" but not for others?

I'm starting to see that anger and resentment harm the one feeling those emotions. The perpetrator is unaffected. No matter how badly we want the world to operate with the same standards we hold, it simply doesn't. People can be shitty, period. I just blogged about my childhood, remembering how terribly I was treated by so many people. At various times, I have been angry at my former coach, my dad, my peers and anyone who bullied and teased me. I had a terrible time letting go of this anger until I started to heal the part of me that believed, on some level, that maybe I somehow deserved these wrongs inflicted on me.

I think what was most eye opening to me was when I tried to put myself in the other person's shoes. The groups I was in during various hospital stays engaged in a lot of role playing, which helped the healing process to some degree. During one of these sessions, I remembered wondering how anyone could treat a child the way I was treated. Really, how could anyone treat another human being that way?

In trying to understand how anyone could administer such hurt, I discovered I couldn't, unless perhaps I had been operating from some deep hurt myself, but even then I couldn't imagine it. Still, it helped me realize that sometimes people are doing the best they can. This may not help heal, but by knowing that my dad or my peers did the best they could, I was able to soften a little. From there, I worked on forgiveness. Yes, they were terrible to me at times, but they had their own issues. My dad was suffering and battling his own demons, bad ones. Unfortunately, his best, in terms of being a loving father, wasn't very good, but it was the best he could do given his own situation. Plus, apologies or even recognizing being in the wrong doesn't come easily to most people, so they aren't likely to tell you what you want to hear when you ask for an apology.

The big problem is that forgiveness doesn't necessarily take away the hurt. It takes something more to move through the painful emotions. We are not taught how to express anger and hurt, especially in this country, so we learn to shove our feelings down or take things out on ourselves. We aren't allowed to be angry, so we turn the anger inward.

They say time heals all wounds and can lead to forgiveness, but this is only true as long as you don't feed the resentment. Time was a big factor in my ability to let go, and I danced for a long time with the frustration and anger inside me. Coming to terms with this idea that people usually don't change was difficult.

Things got stirred up a bit when I interviewed my coach for the book I wrote, and he confessed that, if given the chance to go back knowing now what he didn't know then, he wouldn't do anything differently. I was shocked. I know I would have done a lot differently, like spoken up for myself a hell of a lot more in his presence. In the end, there's nothing I can do to make him realize the tremendous hurt and damage he caused me, and I can't change the past. There will never be an apology on his end, so I had to accept it. It took years to do that, and I still don't like being anywhere near him. But I don't let the anger eat at me. It's his problem, not mine.

Some key steps in moving toward forgiveness are to move through and express the anger, be kind to yourself through the process and engage in dialog or role play to better understand the situation from all angles. Even if the other party can't or refuses to hear you, find healthy ways to define and address the hard feelings. Write or say out loud the things you need to say, even if the other person can't or refuses to hear or accept your words. In terms of expressing anger, it's OK to go to a safe place and yell or beat a pillow with your fists. You can try channeling that anger in movement or sports too, anything to keep from turning it inward, or you can even try expressing the anger through journal writing or another creative outlet.

The last piece of advice I have is to avoid putting too much energy into talking and reliving the experience. Part of moving forward is to address the issue, several times if needed, and then work on describing and visualizing how you want your current situation and your future to be. I know a lady who is stuck in the past, and she can't help but bring up her regrets, frustrations and hurt pretty much every day. This is not moving through the emotions or moving forward; it's staying stuck.

If anyone else has suggestions on how they moved through anger and resentment after being treated badly, please feel free to leave a comment.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Break on Through

I landed on the other side of the darkness. Anyone who goes through these bipolar ups and downs will know how grateful I am to be over the depression that can be so debilitating. And I am actually proud of myself that through it all, I still manage to keep on track in my recovery. That takes some courage.

I know that probably won't be the last one. It might not even be the last one this year, but at least I can see some light.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Labels and Random Thoughts

**Disclaimer: No, I do not condone violence or setting clowns on fire, even though clowns are creepy.

The other day I ran into one of my neighbors. She happens to be going through something serious, and I wish I could change her situation. I feel helpless.

We didn't talk much about that. Understandably, she didn't want to, but she did share with me an experience she had recently with some of our other neighbors and former neighbors who had gathered for some kind of service. I didn't attend. For her, it brought up memories of her past. Sadly, the two of us were mistreated by the older kids in the neighborhood, but neither of us shared our experiences at the time. Apparently, things haven't changed much. I won't go into detail, but I'm glad I wasn't in attendance.

I felt like an outsider when I was a kid. I used to get wildly upset and felt so incredibly hurt that I attempted to move things with my mind. Yeah, I was weird trying to emulate Carrie before I even knew about these kinds of phenomena, but I wanted to smash things in some kind of horrifying way, mostly to express my frustration. I wanted some fucking power in situations in which I had none.

It's a drag when I see these people now, and I feel obligated to smile and pretend everything's fine. Fortunately, I rarely have these encounters. And for the most part, I'm over it, but when I hear that some of them are still acting in less than kind ways, it stirs things up again. I have to remind myself that each of them had their own issues to face as kids. Just because they were in the popular crowd doesn't mean they were or are happy.

I am no longer the stupid fat kid who comes in last. So I tell myself.

People limit themselves in all kinds of ways. We put restrictions on ourselves by using self-sabotaging methods, or we don't believe we can do certain things. We get caught up in how others view us and how we view ourselves. We listen to criticism both from others and from inside our own heads. When we fall into trying too hard to define ourselves, we lose sight of who we might become.

I know other people who were teased or bullied as kids can relate to a certain label following them into adulthood. For some, they will always be the fat kid or the skinny kid or the weird kid no matter how much they change on the surface, but as adults, we can get stuck labeling ourselves in other ways. It takes a lot of work to overcome the labels we stick on ourselves.

Some people are determined to fit in somehow, so they continually look for additional labels to place on themselves instead of trying to accept who they really are apart from these classifications. They take online quizzes, talk about their symptoms and check boxes on surveys in an effort to supposedly further describe who they really are, but how does this really help? So your online survey says you have borderline personality disorder. Now what?

It's fine to identify with a group or a diagnosis. We do it all the time, but most people are unaware of why they do it. We want to be part of a team, fit in, or we feel more secure if we can be a part of this or that group, religion or organization. We gather strength from others going through similar difficulties in life. That's all normal and in most cases healthy. The problem is when the identity placed on us becomes too deeply part of who we are and how we define ourselves. It's when it starts influencing our thinking about ourselves and puts limits on what we believe we can do that it becomes a problem. We can get so caught up in the label that we get stuck.

The truth is that we are not easily put into restrictive little boxes, but some of us keep trying to make it that simple. Humans are more complex than that. General categories don't fully describe who we are deep down. We may show characteristics of an eating disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder or autism, but that's not WHO we are. It's not so cut and dry. One trait may bleed into another, and these symptoms don't represent the core of who we are. It's somewhat complicated when it comes to mental illness, because there's no blood test or brain scan to confirm most of them. A diagnosis is often based solely on symptoms. In some cases it's accurate, and in others it's probably not.

It's easy to get lost in a relationship or a role in life that seems to define you. That's why older women can easily slip into an eating disorder when they are faced with an identity crisis after their children leave the nest. Some women can suddenly be faced with wondering who they are apart from being involved mothers, but all of us struggle with identity from time to time.

I want to believe that I was part of something, that what I did mattered. Running was my identity at one time, even if it is no longer. It was what gave my life purpose, even though much of it was done in illness. I don't want to think that it was merely my inner turmoil manifested in physical activity. I want to believe that the records I set inspired those behind me and opened doors for women, girls and athletes. I want to believe that what I did then and what I do now means something.

But the truth is that much of the time lately I'm so unhappy I have a hard time wanting to be around. It's not even all that related to the injuries, pain or situations in my life; it's more related to depression, some kind of chemical fuck up in my head. But it makes it hard to participate in any significant way in life, and it also makes it hard on the people around me, which causes me great guilt. That's why I rarely talk to anyone about it. Instead I'll dump it here, hoping it might offer someone else struggling some kind of consolation that we are not alone. It also makes it difficult to see any good I do, because I'm so focused on my mediocrity.

I see many people fighting through cancer or other illness and bravely moving forward. I often wonder if I have the energy anymore. I fought through two severe life-threatening illnesses, and I still wonder why. I have good moments; there's no doubt about that. Still, how am I contributing to the world?

Before anyone thinks this is a cry for help or sounds the alarm, rest assured that living with a label of bipolar means I know that when the lows hit, there's not much to do but ride them out and hope those highs or even some middle ground is somewhere in sight and somehow worth the anguish.

Am I bipolar? I don't know. It runs in my family, and I have the symptoms and an official diagnosis. However, I have tried to move away from adopting the label. I also know this illness isn't me. I don't have to get caught up in it. It's something I go through from time to time, but it doesn't have to define me. I don't have to let it swallow me whole like I did in the past. I can, if I choose, fight it, knowing that there's no real way to win, but I also know that I can choose to keep moving forward, even when I don't feel like doing so. And I still keep one step ahead of the eating disorder. Maybe that can be seen as my victory.

Everything's alright now. Everything's fine. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Jane Welzel

I'm very sad to share this news about Jane Welzel, a standout runner who lived in Fort Collins. As the article notes, she was a pioneer in women's running and touched many lives:

My condolences to her close friends and family.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Thoughts About Life and Death

Robin Williams
My heart broke when I heard the news about Robin Williams. It's not that he was my favorite comedian or actor, though there's no doubt he was outstanding in his field, it's more that he was someone who touched so many people in so many ways. Since he took his own life, people are talking more about suicide, giving opinions and expressing their thoughts and frustrations. I was surprised to see the number of individuals claiming this act was a selfish one, not knowing the full story. It's easy to speculate, especially when the media are feeding the public imprecise or incomplete information.

People quieted down some when it came out that Williams had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Usually when an illness like this is diagnosed based on symptoms, the brain is already drastically changed. In the case of Parkinson's and MS, dementia often goes hand in hand with the physical symptoms. This is the very reason why my sister in law killed herself. She said she could probably learn to live with the physical issues of the MS, though she made it clear that lying in a bed listening to the fucking birds chirp wasn't her idea of living, but she could not stand knowing that she was losing her mental capacity.

In the case of my brother's best friend, it was really his demons that got to him. He had been drinking off and on throughout most of his adult life, and when his wife could no longer take his nose dives off the wagon, she filed for a divorce. She ended up with full custody of the kids and stayed in the house. The couple remained friends, though she was careful about not letting him stick around when he was drinking. He hung himself from a tree in their yard shortly after she drove the kids to school one day. This was after a period of being sober, but not that long after a bad relapse.

Of course there's a part of me that understands how this kind of action could be seen as selfish. It was a message, in part, but I also know the deeper pain and suffering that leads to wanting out, especially when you're trapped in a cycle of self destruction. No, it's not fair to those left behind, but those left can probably never quite understand what mental anguish and emotional pain the other person is enduring. As my mom always says, you can't compare wounds, meaning your emotional pain may not be the same or even similar to what someone else is going through.

Some people use painting, writing or running as a means of expression, and sometimes that can alleviate the misery or help express the inner trouble, but there are times when nothing works. It's not merely being depressed or sad, it's a black hole, pure torment and the dogs of hell all wrapped into one overwhelming, never-ending nightmare that seems impossible to get out of, or worse, it's apathy and numbness.

It's when you feel yourself giving up that it's most important to reach out, but most of us who are forced to ride the big bipolar roller coaster are better at isolating when things get really bad.

In the case of an added illness, I often wonder how I would respond. Already, I've had tremendous trouble keeping my feet on the ground. I deal with chronic pain from various ailments including the endometriosis, a heart valve leak that leaves me fatigued a lot and past and present injuries with some nerve damage in my foot that is anything but pleasant. There are times when it feels like too much, but being diagnosed with something that affects the brain or something like ALS or MS is a whole other ballgame. It makes my shit look incredibly trivial. When it comes to courage, the people who face these kinds of challenges are true heroes. Could you really go on, knowing you would be forced to live with such limitations, becoming someone entirely different from the person you are or have been? Would you even want to? If you knew your fate, would you be able to face it?

There are people who do.

When I had meningitis, it affected my brain. I can't describe exactly how it did, but I know my thinking isn't the same as it was. It probably never will be. It's unsettling, but I continued because I had hope that these glitches I was experiencing would sort themselves out over time, and I was so in the moment of merely surviving, that I didn't think too far ahead. Well that and I'm terrified of death. It scares me more than spiders, and anyone who knows me knows how phobic I am when it comes to arachnids.

Had these glitches in my brain function not improved at lease somewhat once I started to get my bearings, I don't know what I would have done, and whenever I'm tired and have a little flash of what it was like back when all I could really do was remind myself to breathe, eat, wash and occasionally get out of bed, it worries me. Which is worse, facing a life you don't want to live or facing your biggest fear and ending it? Back then, the pain meds made me forget myself enough to temporarily float in a less painful haze, and I'm sure that helped keep me going. So here I am, often wasting time, just waiting for nothing in particular. I go through the motions, frequently frustrated at my own life and circumstances.

I know being limited to the point where I'm a burden is not how I want to live, but when you land in a situation suddenly, you usually end up coping as best you can. I think of Jean-Dominique Baubyack and wonder how things would have been if he had been given the choice to opt out. I believe in his case, it was more than mere acceptance, and he wanted, at least on some level, to live.

I rarely think of suicide the way I did before. I'm not sure what changed, but part of it has to do with knowing that the low points usually give rise to beautiful highs.

My reason for thinking out loud in this post is to remind people not to be so judgmental. Everyone has different breaking points, and we just can't put ourselves in someone else's shoes enough to know what that person is fully experiencing.

I remember a big debate in a forum once with one group of people condemning Ryan Dunn for drinking and crashing his car, killing himself in the process and another group having some respect and compassion for him, his family and his friends. He had struggled with addiction in the past. Some of the same people who said terrible things about Ryan deserving his fate were quick to claim how tragic is was to lose Amy Winehouse, who somehow didn't deserve her fate. I think it's tragic to lose anyone who has battled their own demons. Me saying this doesn't mean I condone the behavior of either. It just means I have enough compassion to understand what can lead a person to make such bad choices in life.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

God and Recovery

I'm a member of two online eating disorder recovery groups on Facebook, mostly to offer support to others. It's one way for me to feel like I'm giving back. There are a few of us who are in more than one group, so I see familiar faces posting in each. Most are careful to avoid posting the exact same thing in the various online communities, though. One woman posts multiple times a day in both groups (and probably more), and every post makes a reference to god, Jesus or the bible. Apparently she has no clue that not everyone on the planet believes in her same god.

It makes me uncomfortable to see both groups so cluttered with religious thought when I know for a fact that I'm not the only atheist or agnostic in the forum. I'm sure there are other religions represented as well. More importantly, these clubs should be about recovery, not accepting Jesus into your life, and trust me, in my darkest hour, it wasn't God's face on a piece of toast that motivated me to get well.

I'm not opposed to people using whatever means possible to step out of an illness, but I'm bothered when people try to force their beliefs on others. This was a big reason why I wrote my book. It is fine if you want to talk to ED or pray to God, but remember that you create your own path to recovery. If you want Jesus by your side, that's cool, but if you prefer going it alone, you have every right to do it your way.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hobby Lobby

I'm sure I will be either preaching to the choir or ruffling feathers, because there's no real common ground in this case. Either you get the possible implications of the Supreme Court's ruling -- which Congress, in theory, can repeal -- in the Hobby Lobby case, or you don't. Sure, nobody really knows the scope of the decision right now, but the decision itself and what it means for female employees who work for something close to minimum wage at Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood is clear. And this decision doesn't just affect women; it affects their husbands, partners and family. While some may argue that it's "only" four forms of contraception that are no longer available to these women while other forms still are available, the problem is with the ruling itself. It basically comes down to the Supreme Court ruling against a regulation adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services in favor of a corporation.

Why is Hobby Lobby all for helping increase the number of four-hour erections in the world but not for helping what might happen as a result of all those erections, you might ask. I don't have the answer.
Old man sex

To those of you who suggest employees who are unhappy with the ruling simply quit and jump into a new job, maybe you have forgotten how difficult it is in certain areas to take the time, make the effort and put your life on hold while you look for a job with no income rolling in while you do so. Unless you have someone supporting you financially (wouldn't that be nice), this isn't a realistic option for people supporting a family by working for a large company while earning meager wages and maybe even living pay check to pay check.

What upsets many people is how the Supreme Court interpreted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which is supposed to address a “person’s” exercise of religion. I guess Hobby Lobby is somehow seen as a person in this particular case, a person who can inflict his religious rights on his employees. Corporations having certain rights isn't always a bad thing, but in this case, it means that female employees, who may follow different religions than those of the Hobby Lobby shareholders, will no longer be able to get insurance coverage (even though it's required by law under the Affordable Care Act and was offered previously without any fuss) for certain types of birth control. Before anyone complains that it's no big deal and further implications aside, one of the biggest issues I see is that these types of birth control options are not just used for preventing babies.

There are some questions about whether or not Hobby Lobby knew it previously covered the very birth control options it now claims to be so adamantly against, but we can either assume the company suddenly and randomly had an AHA moment and decided to look at the list of what's covered, or, more probably, this is a big FUCK YOU Obamacare. Let me guess ...

While women can seek additional healthcare coverage outside of the workplace, there's no doubt that Hobby Lobby is not treating its employees equally. But this isn't entirely a feminist issue. I get that nobody has the right to force anyone to provide a product or service that he or she doesn't want to, but this is a for-profit corporation, not a private, non-profit company that could go to court in defense of the religion of its MEMBERS. Does that make a difference? Um, yes. Do you get it now?

One of the more ridiculous claims this case has brought out was demonstrated in a comment I saw on an article about Hobby Lobby. It suggested that it's really poor men who don't have equality. I would take this claim seriously if it had anything whatsoever to do with actual health (not merely convenience), or if it were legitimate in any way. I might even consider taking it seriously if the comment on the article I read related to the actual article. Since none of these were the case, all the claim did was make me wonder why the world is so very fucked up. Lately I have a low tolerance for bullshit, so I have cut out a lot of noise in my life by removing myself from situations in which others act like assholes. People can consider themselves so important that the bigger picture is lost.

I will address the absurd claim here, though, because I have spent a great deal of time reading about and thinking about this case and its implications.

First, some may remember that I was recently diagnosed with endometriosis. Given this, the statements following may be biased. An IUD was the ONLY option for me. Without it, I was bleeding for months at a time, sometimes going through one pad an hour. That's a lot of blood loss. I simply did not respond to other forms of contraception, and the side effects were too extreme for my body.

With that out of the way, I will go on to say that I'm one who usually does a good job of putting myself in other people's shoes and have great empathy for those suffering physically or emotionally. Having made an attempt and thought about suicide a lot in my life and having a female family member follow through and end her life makes me extra aware when it comes to emotional pain, so when a person implied that my "dismissive behavior" in a comment on an article on the internet that I posted is the stuff that could lead a person to do something drastic, I have a hard time accepting that anyone who would jump into the fray could be that sensitive. My advice to anyone who would claim such a thing is to not go around biting without expecting some barking in return, little doggy.

You been goofin' with the beez??

Sure, I will address this idea that men have it terribly bad because they are limited to only two options of contraception. Why not? Actually, the whole concept is questionable, because if you're in a relationship, you generally make these kinds of decisions with your partner, not alone. If you're randomly fucking people, then I'd be surprised if you didn't want to wear a condom. But suppose that's your thing, and you would rather not wear a condom with a stranger and risk getting something. That's your choice. I may not condone it, but it's your right to do what you want. What would be better is to realize that having sex is something that should be done with some forethought. You discuss things with your partner and go from there. That means you suddenly have more options, no?

The biggest problem with this kind of poor me thinking is assuming that the treatment women receive is some kind of extravagant privilege. It's not accurate to assume that women are given a variety because of some strange conspiracy to have as many contraceptive options as possible available for women while limiting men's options. It's more that birth control makes more sense for women when you can control hormonal levels, ovulation and other factors that lead to pregnancy.

But the bigger issue is still that contraception for women isn't always about preventing children. In many cases, mine included, it's about treating medical conditions such as dismenorrhea, amenorrhea, painful periods and cycles, endometroisis, and severe acne with risks of infection, to name a few.

The term equal rights doesn't actually mean that everyone ends up with exactly the same thing. That would be impossible, because the physiology of men and women is different. It means we have the same social, political and economic opportunities. How that plays out isn't always exactly the same for each individual.

It's complicated, no doubt, and both sides are very passionate about their beliefs surrounding the decision. All I have to add is that it's important to look at all sides of this emotion-provoking coin. People who are passionate can be very convincing, but it doesn't mean what they say is accurate.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Why Calling a Woman a Slut is Bad

I feel a rant coming on. Actually, I have had several rants bubbling inside me since some strange occurrences have presented themselves. For one, I see more and more how people's online behavior doesn't match their true-life identities. You know the types: the girl who posts a million images with quotes about compassion who is anything but considerate, or the guy who posts about how to be a great friend when he is too obsessed with posting to actually be one. Well, this rant is unrelated to that. It's also unrelated to the disgusting behavior of Warren Jeffs that was recently explored in a made-for-TV movie, nor does it relate to Erykah Badu's foolish attempt to be funny by trying to "steal" a kiss from a reporter, though these two events could make interesting blog post topics. For example, imagine if it had been a man trying to sneak a kiss from a female reporter instead of Erykah acting like a twit. That would have ruffled some feathers. I find it odd that many are claiming it was cute or funny when the reporter was clearly annoyed, upset even, with her antics, as he should have been.

I'll skip or save those issues for another time. Right now I'm fired up about something else.

Maggie in a fashion-forward outfit.

The other day, someone mentioned Maggie Vessey on facebook. Sadly, the talk that followed was focused more on her running attire than her performance at the USATF National Outdoor Championships, and someone even implied she's an attention seeker and said that she looked slutty. I assume that athletes who get some attention are more likely to be invited to races, but that's not really the issue. The derogatory comment is.

Here's an example of one of the many outfits Maggie has worn on the track:

Maggy in colorful but appropriate attire with bun huggers that are made from as much material as those of her competitors. The big difference is that hers are something other than boring. 

To me it looks like what she wears might be on the eccentric side, but I don't see a problem with it. I'm not sure why wearing something flashy or eye catching or different translates into her being immoral or sleazy. Athletes spend a lot of time in workout clothing, so what's so horrible about adding a little fashion? If it's not to your liking, why not simply say you don't like her outfit or admit it's something you wouldn't wear instead of going one step further by attacking her character and making assumptions about who she is? Does this outfit that she wears on the track make you think she's lurking around, waiting to do something shady? Please tell me how wearing colorful, sometimes odd costumes that often have more material than her competitors' makes her look slutty. Does anyone think what she wears is offensive? I just can't understand the fuss.

When I was at BYU, our team was one of the first to wear those one-piece uniforms. As far as I know, people didn't call us sluts, because, you know, we were on the BYU team. Instead they stared, pointed and maybe even laughed, but nobody called us names. That's rare in these kinds of situations.

There's a double standard when it comes to men and what they choose to wear. You could see two men in a race, one wearing one of those awful one-sided thongs and the other wearing running shorts, but it's highly unlikely anyone would call the one in the thong a slut or man-whore. Sure, people might scratch their heads or laugh, but they probably wouldn't call the guy a slut. I should add that a man being called a man-whore doesn't have quite the negative connotation that a woman being called a slut does.


Probably one of the most upsetting comments came from a woman who said that with people like Maggie dressing the way she does, it's no wonder why MEN don't respect her. Well, that's a stretch. So far, I haven't seen or heard about any men commenting in ways that suggest they disrespect her or any other woman for their choice in running attire, not in my circle of friends at least, though I'm sure it happens. Why a person is treated with respect shouldn't depend on what that person chooses to wear. That's just shy of claiming women deserve what they get for wearing what they want.

I get that we are all products of our messed up society, and cutting down others has sort of become the norm. Still, it's unkind to call someone a slut based solely on how she dresses, especially when what the person is wearing is no more revealing than the people around her. What Maggie's competitors wear doesn't automatically make them more moral simply because they are not as loud.

What ends up happening with these kinds of ridiculous comments is that they reinforce an idea that women can never get it right. If they don't fit an extremely narrow definition of beauty and what's acceptable, they are up for attack. If they slip a little bit outside the norm, all hell breaks loose, so rein them in at every corner. If a lady is too showy she's a slut. If she's too pretty she's a bitch. When she's too good at something she's a snob, and when she's too smart she's ugly or a nerd.

We can't win, because someone always has to attempt to take us down a notch. We can't celebrate the beauty (inner or outer) and success of a woman, because our society has brainwashed us into thinking a woman can only be a certain way, and that way is limited. You have to keep it down and not attract attention while still being pretty and successful without being a slut, overly sexual or more successful than a man. Shit. Just try to figure all that out. Fuck it all that this is 2014, and we are still living like we just put one foot back in the 50s. And for fuck's sake, SMILE!

Some men claim that because women cut down and criticize other women, none of this is their problem. Sure, women make comments about other women, but who set the standard? Does anyone think it was actually other women? Did women insist all women be subservient to men in their religion? Did women drive the fashion and beauty trends in years past? With no women board members in the largest media companies, in big corporations or in the fashion industry in the very recent past, it's pretty impressive that we supposedly had such power. Wow. We exert way more influence than I ever realized. No, the reality is that, as much as some people want to blame women for everything, even their own inequality, women are definitely a product of this society and have only recently started to do something about it. Well, some have. In the end, we need to realize that putting women down for what they wear doesn't help anyone or accomplish anything.

Maggie Vessey outfit
The start line of the 800.

BTW, Maggie finished fourth in her 800-meter race. She was wearing a fun one piece, but who cares? She ran a fucking 2:00! 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hypocrites and Movies

I wrote a blog post, and the internet ate it. I hate when that happens. I keep going back to where the post should be, half expecting it to turn up, but deep down I know it really won't be there. I had to start over. Just as I was writing the intro, the cursor jumped from the end of the sentence to the start, which made an interesting jumble of words, but nothing that made any sense. I also have two key caps missing and several sticky keys on this computer. First-world problems, for sure, but annoying nonetheless.

Normally I steer clear of even suggesting what or how people should eat. I can't stand when people try to dictate my eating habits, so I avoid telling people what's best for them. The worst is when someone insists that juicing, cleanses, fasts or some random fad diet is the way to go. I don't mind when someone suggests trying a certain meal, eating more of this or that, or eating X before or after doing Y activity. That doesn't bother me, but when people insist that the Paleo diet or Keto diet or what the fuck ever diet is the best thing ever and solves all the problems of the world, it makes me want to poke my eardrums out and roll my eyes to the point where they get stuck all up in the back of my head somewhere.

That said, I do think it's important to be as aware as we possibly can when it comes to what we eat, and that should include researching specific ingredients as well as looking at labels.

I've been on a documentary-watching rampage. So far, the list includes: Chasing Ice (amazing), Inequality for All (very well done), Food Inc. (just as shocking the second time around), God Loves Uganda (incredibly disturbing), Exit Through the Gift Shop (interesting), Unhung Hero (great) and Zeitgeist (eye-opening, even if it's not 100 % accurate).

I encourage people to watch all of these, but since I'm on the topic of eating, Food Inc. stands out among them. This and any other films or lectures dealing with food, farming, GMOs, labeling or monopolies, such as Monsanto, in the food industry should be a documentary-watching priority.

Here's a short video clip from the movie, Food Inc., in which one farmer, whose contract with Purdue was terminated when she refused to close off the open windows on her chicken farm at the request of the company, talks about factory farming:

She has since moved on to practice humane and free-range farming methods on her own farm.

And here's a short video on marketing relating to farming that will also make you sick:

While I'm on the topic of being sick, this one about three young wannabe models may be unrelated, but it will also turn your stomach:

Boulder gets a bad rap for people being extra picky about organic food and following the hippie lifestyle, but most of them aren't even aware that their eating habits are a good thing when it comes to making a statement that we don't want animals, even ones we may end up eating, to be treated in horrific ways. For companies, it comes down to supply, demand and profit. That's it. Very, very few companies actually care. You might be surprised that companies such as Burt's Bees, Kashi and a bunch of other "natural" businesses are owned by PepisiCo Inc., and none of them give a shit about GMO labeling, your health or animals. Maybe when they started they did, but that's no longer the case.

Not all free range farms are the same.

With the corporate consolidation of organic companies, it's go big or get out of the way, so many smaller family-run business are pushed out of the ring. That's why it's important to support companies who are the real deal, companies that support GMO labeling, are family owned and care about more than just turning a profit.

While I'm on the topic of Boulder, people come here, complaining about the selfish, opportunistic, self-serving crowd and then act like assholes to show just how unlike us they are, but I suppose they do have a point. People do seem to be a little on the self righteous side here. Still, Boulder can be a cool place to live. I like that people here are unique, and whether or not they know it, the people here are making at least a small statement about how the food industry should be by being fussy about what they consume.

As you probably realize, supporting change doesn't mean simply walking into Whole Foods and buying whatever they're pushing, far from it. It means educating yourself about the products, how they are made and what goes into each step before the product lands on a shelf.

For more ways you can help, visit this link:

Monday, June 9, 2014

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Spokesperson

A few weeks ago, a few friends and I were discussing people who are chosen to represent companies. Typically, those who pick individuals to promote their products make sure the spokesperson looks the part. For example, you generally wouldn't see someone who weighs 500 pounds and smokes representing a running apparel company. Instead, the higher ups will probably look for a true athlete, someone who may already use their products. Most businesses usually take it one step further by seeking out individuals who appear to be healthy, no matter what the product.

What's worrisome is that, just like with modeling, some companies don't have standards when it comes to weight. Oh, they do when it comes to being TOO heavy. You definitely can't be heavy in this world and expect to have products and opportunities showered on you, but being too thin seems to scare people into keeping quiet. Companies will often turn a blind eye when it comes to spokespeople being too thin. I'm not talking about people who might be too thin; I'm talking about people who have clearly hurled themselves over a wide line. I'm not sure it's anyone's place to say something to the person or the company in these cases, but there seems to be a double standard. Besides, what could anyone say? "Hey, I noticed you have a malnourished gal representing your company. I hope she eats something soon!"

I admit that when I went to the facebook page of an organic food company, I was horrified to see one person in quite a few photos sporting their logo, a lady who seemed to be some sort of company representative and was listed as a sponsored athlete, looking not just anorexic but very unwell. I know some people can be naturally thin, but when the person looks like she somehow managed to stagger out of Dachau, it's usually not because of a high metabolism.

I don't know about you, but seeing something like that did not make me want to buy whatever they were selling. In fact, I quickly changed my mind about even looking into their packaged foods.

I understand that weight doesn't define a person. At the same time, would you take advice from an active alcoholic on how to get sober? It's not a great analogy, but there's a reason why companies often select healthy looking people to represent them. If I'm buying a product that makes claims about health, I don't expect to see someone in a state of starvation promoting it. She can (and should) eat all the raw bars and vegan shakes she wants, and I don't have a problem with the company sending her whatever they want. You have to admit, though, it's off putting to customers and potential customers to see someone so clearly in the throes of an illness in a position of promoting food.

I don't know what the solution is, but it's upsetting to me that this company in particular is OK with publicizing someone who appears to have such a severe addiction. This lady does't seem to be any kind of cancer survivor or someone aiming to be in good health; it's someone who looks sick. I find it sad. I'm not saying she shouldn't be given a chance to promote products; it's more that I don't think people will respond well to seeing someone pushing food when she looks like she does't come close to eating enough to sustain her activity level.

This reminds me of another odd occurrence I have witnessed more than a few times in the psychology world. I know of at least two counselors who are and admit to having obvious eating disorders that are getting worse who counsel others. A third is clearly in denial, which is probably worse. She seems to think everyone else is too fat while she is fine looking like a skeleton. I'm not sure how she gets clients, but she does. I guess it's a do as I say, not as I do phenomenon, but there's no way I would have done well getting advice from someone who was spiraling down while I was trying to recover.

I remember my mom telling me when I first had the idea to write my book that I had to first recover if I wanted to promote it in any way. She's right. I'm definitely not saying anyone has to be 100 percent healthy to be of service to others or hold a job as a spokesperson, far from it, but people will respond more appropriately if the person offering counsel or sporting a certain logo for a company is at least beginning to climb out of the hole instead of in the process of diving deeply into the abyss.

I'm curious to know what other people think about this.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Just Shut up, Dr Drew

I addressed the topic of Dr (I really want to put that in air quotes, but apparently the guy has a degree) Pinsky's Loveline slip up, in which he discounted a caller completely when the man tried to explain that his significant other was diagnosed with several serious conditions, on twitter and facebook, but with all the backpedaling the doctor is doing with his apology, I thought I would mention it here as well.

Here's what Pinsky said when the caller mentioned that his fiancee has endometriosis, intestinal cystitis, lactose intolerance and what might be something along the lines of having no stomach lining:

“These are what we call sort of functional disorders. Everything you mentioned, everything you mentioned, are things that actually aren’t discernibly pathological. They’re what we call ‘garbage bag diagnoses,’ when you can’t think of anything else, you go, ‘Eh, it’s that.’ So, it then makes me question why is she so somatically preoccupied that she’s visiting doctors all the time with pains and urinary symptoms and pelvic symptoms, and then that makes me wonder, was she sexually abused growing up?”

Whether or not this woman had suffered at the hands of some abuser isn't exactly the point. To so completely discount her very real physical conditions and suggest that she's some kind of hypochondriac is disgusting. When the caller insisted that his fiancee often refused to go to a doctor, even when she was in great pain, Pinsky said, “Trust me, she saw lots of doctors before you," and claimed she was having unexplained pain. Um, no, there's a clear explanation for it. Dr. Drew just doesn't want to accept it.  

Let's suppose some guy went to a doctor, because he had diabetes. Then he went back to find out he has high blood pressure. Oh and then he was diagnosed with poor circulation. Would you think the guy is preoccupied with running to the doctor? No, there's often a strong correlation between conditions, and this woman's situation isn't unlike many women who suffer from either endometriosis and/or intestinal cystitis. But I bet you anything, if it had been a guy with a bunch of issues that are often strongly correlated, it wouldn't be therapy that Dr. Drew suggests. He would boldly state that HIS conditions ARE discernibly pathological, no doubt, because, you know, he's a guy.

I call bullshit anyway, because pretty much everything that the caller mentioned can be diagnosed by an ultrasound or some other legitimate diagnostic tool. Yeah, I have endo, and when I got an MRI for my hip injury, one of the first things out of the sports doctor's mouth was that he hoped I was seeing a gynecologist, because both the endo and the scar from a previous ovarian cyst were pretty obvious on the imaging. Hey, there it is, and it's not in my head!

There's so much that's upsetting about this situation that it's hard to know where to start or end. It used to be typical that women were ignored like this, but this is 2014! We know better by now, and any doctor who can't treat a patient fairly shouldn't be practicing. Assuming these types of physical conditions are in a patient's head or belittling her in any way is ridiculous. Oh, address why she's running to the doctor (when in reality she's not), not the fact that she's probably in a lot of pain and probably has to change her lifestyle due to actual, legitimate ailments that are easily diagnosed.

Fuck that. Really.

Of course he offered an "apology" because people were voicing their upset, but just as quickly, he's trying to make it seem like he didn't lump endometriosis in with his "garbage bag" of ailments assessment. Had he left it at the apology, I probably would have kept quiet on it, but now that he's giving everyone a wink wink I was just offering the apology for show sign, I'm not going to let it go. Not that my voice will be heard very well, but venting about what a shit move this was on his part will at least make me feel a little bit better.

I get that Loveline isn't supposed to be a show dealing with topics in any kind of overly serious way, and I get that Dr. Drew is more of an entertainer than a practicing physician. On the other hand, people do listen to what he says. In fact, he sometimes has some solid advice to give around addiction. He should probably stick to dealing with counseling pregnant teens and addicts on TV shows, though, because this was damaging to women in all kinds of ways. It's like he stepped back to a time when women were still diagnosed with hysteria. Nice going, Doctor.

On a somewhat separate topic, I did find it terribly sad and maybe a little bit ironic that it recently came out that his daughter has suffered from bulimia for years, throwing up multiple times a day, and nobody in her family was aware of it. Not that I'm giving him a pass on any of this, but Dr. Drew also battled cancer not that long ago, so I'm sure his entire family has been having a difficult time. He's fortunate that he seems to have recovered well and also that nobody told him his symptoms were imagined. I wish him and his family well, but I do wish he would just shut the fuck up.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Guest Post for Running in Silence

When I first got the offer to write a guest post for the blog Running in Silence, I was both excited and honored. There are so many topics I would like to address, but I feel I should break the post down into a limited number of points I believe will help others most. Since I have already shared my story in my book, Training on Empty, I decided to give only a brief history of my career as a runner. The reason why I feel this is necessary at all is to show not just what I have survived but how my past played a role in both the eating disorder and my recovery.

In exploring what led to my eating disorder, I discovered that, like many others, I used eating or not eating as a way to cope with uncomfortable situations and my feelings. I was a sensitive child and got overwhelmed easily. Given my tempestuous living situation with an alcoholic father and peers who constantly criticized, it's no wonder I had a hard time self regulating as a child.

At first I over ate, stuffing my hurt feeling down as far as they would go, but by the time I was 13, I started restricting, which brought about a false sense of control. I couldn't control what was going on around me, but I could force myself to eat a certain way, taking my attention away from the chaos in my life. In the early 80's, anorexia wasn't well understood, and it certainly wasn't discussed. I didn't even know there was a name for what I was experiencing until a few years after I started my extreme diet and exercise regimen.

Shortly after I started losing weight, I found running. It was an exercise I used primarily to keep myself thin, but I was also immediately successful when I entered races. Within a few years, I became one of the top mountain runners in the world, setting records on nearly every course I ran, including the grueling Pikes Peak Ascent. I also had tremendous success in road races and in varsity cross country races in high school, and I was only 16.

But my career was cut short due to my ever worsening disorder. I was plagued with illness and injury despite some outstanding showings in races. Eventually, before I hit my mid twenties, I was forced to give up running altogether. At one point, I was so weak, I could hardly stand on my own two feet.

Since numbers related to weight can be triggering, I won't mention them in this post. Instead I will say that during the throes of my illness, I was having seizures and headed for disaster. One night, I was rushed to the hospital with chest pain, and doctors predicted I had only hours to live. My health had gotten that bad. The main doctor in the ER told my family to prepare for my passing and stated that I probably wouldn't make it through the night.

But I did make it, and I went on to recover.

There is no secret formula or pill that will cure an eating disorder. Everyone must find his or her own way out of the illness. There are, however, key factors to address during recovery.

Unfortunately, a lack of food contributes to an increase in distorted thinking. Re-feeding and stabilizing the body is an essential part of recovery from anorexia, but it is only one aspect and can't be done in isolation. A person must be seen in a whole way. One must address the emotional, mental, physical and even spiritual bodies together.

Diane Israel, a former elite runner herself, makes it clear that there are four main points to consider in regaining health.

1. Reclaim the self/Identify the self.
2. Heal the family/Move away from the family (if healing can't occur)/Heal or address past trauma
3. Community support/community involvement
4. Give back/Charity/Service to others

I want to focus on number one, because for athletes, this step, while being probably the most important, can be the most difficult. It's bad enough that eating disorders cause us to lose ourselves, but for an athlete, finding your true identity can be complicated by the fact that athletes so easily define themselves through their sport. For me, I was so overly identified as an elite athlete, I didn't know how to exist without running. Worse, I felt tremendous guilt and undeserving when I didn't run.

Naturally, when I couldn't run, I lost myself completely in the eating disorder. I didn't know who I was apart from both the illness and the running. I was either Lize the runner or Lize the anorexic. At times, I was even Lize the anorexic runner, but I was never just Lize. I didn't even know who Lize really was anymore. In order to recover, though, I needed to find and reclaim myself, and that was not an easy task. Most of us are not taught that we are OK just as we are, and we are not taught how to truly know who we are. In this society, we are what we do instead.

So what does it mean to reclaim yourself? It means learning to appreciate who you are and your physical body apart from anything else. It means being comfortable and secure in your own skin and balancing all aspects of yourself.

This doesn't usually happen overnight. For me, I had to start with the basics. Rather than focus on what I was eating or how much I was running, I had to turn my attention inward and ask myself what my passions were. I needed to rediscover what I liked and disliked, what my beliefs were and what stirred my emotions. In doing this, I started to better understand how I could move away from the labels that had bound me for so many years. I had to fight the negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones too. My mantra became, "I am OK and everything will be OK," because I had so many fears and old beliefs that things would never be even close to OK, let alone good, especially if I couldn't run.


Take time to analyze your specific set of circumstances and explore activities that you were forced to give up due to the illness. Ask yourself how this disorder has served you and how you can replace the harmful behaviors with healthier coping strategies. Tackle new experiences and prepare yourself for change. Allow yourself to FEEL and know that strong emotions will pass.

Once you take a leap of faith and start on your recovery path, it's not so much that you can't turn back; it's more that you probably won't want to. You'll become too aware of the contrast between merely existing and actually living.

After 20 years of struggling, my life started to feel different. Over time, I was able to find joy again. I could run again without having to force myself to be at the top.

During this transition, I noticed a strong correlation between my thoughts and speech and how I was feeling. The more I switched my focus away from food, calories and miles run, the more I could allow myself to be in the moment, and this was a way for me to temporarily forget that I was anorexic. I aimed at avoiding triggering statements like, "I feel fat" and instead tried to uncover what this symptom meant. Was I tired, afraid or lonely? Did this translate into feeling uncomfortable? Digging for the cause of the symptom rather than focusing on the symptom itself was essential to my recovery.

Over time, the thoughts that were so oppressive started to abate and move to the background. Before long, I started to notice that those thoughts would completely disappear for short periods. Soon, the periods of time without the distorted thoughts stretched into longer and longer segments until I was more focused on living and less obsessed with what I was eating, how I was exercising or how my body looked.  

There's a saying in AA that goes something like: First it gets easier, then it gets harder. After that it gets really hard. Then it gets easier again, and then you start to live.

This is exactly what happened for me. In the beginning, the thought of change brought some hope, so it got easier to leave old patterns that no longer serve me behind. Then I realized that a lot of emotion and feelings were coming up when I was no longer disassociating through the illness. After that, I had to move through the challenging emotions and address past traumas. This was the hard part. Fortunately, I started to get the hang of it, and before long, I noticed that I had suddenly become a participant in the world. The nightmare that was my life was in the past.

When people were concerned that my illness would come back, I was reassured that I now have the tools to stay one or even two steps ahead of it.

If I could give only one piece of advice to anyone struggling with an eating disorder, it would be to hold on to the belief that a full recovery is possible. You may not know what that looks like, but the more you can imagine how you want your life to be, the more you can strive to make it happen.

I want to thank Rachael Steil for her efforts in raising awareness and supporting other runners who battle eating-related issues. Knowing we are not alone is a comforting thought, and feeling supported can push us to make the changes we need.